Red Pine translations – part two – The Diamond Sutra.

Red Pine begins his introduction to the Heart Sutra with “The Heart Sutra is Buddhism in a nutshell.”  It teaches emptiness.  We must understand this emptiness of the skandhas to understand the Diamond Sutra.  The Diamond Sutra teaches non-attachment.  Red Pine in one paragraph summarizes the Diamond Sutra beautifully:

“THE Diamond Sutra may look like a book, but it’s really the body of the Buddha. It’s also your body, my body, all possible bodies. But it’s a body with nothing inside and nothing outside. It doesn’t exist in space or time. Nor is it a construct of the mind. It’s no mind. And yet because it’s no mind, it has room for compassion. This book is the offering of no mind, born of compassion for all suffering beings. Of all the sutras that teach this teaching, this is the diamond. It cuts through all delusions, illuminates what is real, and cannot be destroyed. It is the path on which all buddhas stand and walk. And to read it is to stand and walk with buddhas.”

Pine, Red (2009-03-01). The Diamond Sutra (p. 29). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

I was at a workshop several years ago at the Minneapolis Zen center where Red Pine (Bill Porter) talked about the Diamond Sutra.  He said the sub-title should be “Buddha goes to town.”  It’s very important to understand that this sutra is about what we do in our ordinary day.  The first chapter tells of Buddha doing what he does in an ordinary day:  Going to town and doing his alms round and returning and putting away his robe and bowl.  We must live our ordinary life without any attachment.

Chapter Three tells us that we must not create the perception of a self, a being, a life or a soul.  We must not create the perception.  All of our suffering in life is a result of the perceptions that we create.  Without the perceptions that we create there is nothing to be attached to and that is the main teaching of the Diamond Sutra.

Chapter Four tells us that when a Bodhisattva gives a gift they should not be attached to anything; not a sight, a sound, a smell, a taste, a touch or a dharma.  If you understand the emptiness of things you understand there is nothing to be attached to.  And if you understand that the only gift to give is to teach someone the way to liberation you understand that a true gift has none of these attributes.

The sutra goes on to tell us that the Buddha cannot be seen as a physical body.  His physical attributes are no attributes.  And then it even goes on to teach that the Dharma that he teaches is no Dharma.  Master Sheng Yen who founded Dharma Drum teaches two methods of meditation: Huatou and Silent Illumination.  The Huatou that he recommends is “what is wu?”   Wu is difficult to translate but let’s simplify and just translate it as “nothingness.”  This nothingness is what Red Pine is describing in that opening paragraph.  It doesn’t exist in space or time and yet it is born of compassion for all beings.  It is no mind.

This sutra teaches us prajnaparamita, ultimate wisdom, the wisdom beyond wisdom.  This is what it means to go to the other shore.

I hope you will study this sutra for yourself.  It is the diamond that cuts through all illusion.  It allows us to let go of all of our false perceptions and see what is real.

With Loving Kindness,

Robert Hess

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The notion of life and death

Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao), a friend of mine recently sent me a translation of the Xin Ming attributed to Master Fa Rong (594-657); Not to be confused with the Hsin Hsin Ming by Master Seng Can.

In reading over the work one particular line spoke to me and I had a revelation of everything that Chan teaches; That is I was able to see my mind and into reality. The line that sparked this brief enlightenment experience was:
” When the notion of life and death is extinguished, the mind penetrates the highest, guiding principle.”
I had a realization of how we project both space and time and when timelessness and no-space are realized then one clearly sees that birth and death are only projections of the mind since we are born in space and live for a finite time. This realization was really a realization of the beyond the beyond, of wisdom beyond wisdom. I thought of the Koan: “everything returns to the One; what does the One return to.”

We owe much to the Yogacara school for the teachings that everything is mind only.  We must keep this in mind at all times in our use of concepts to get to the experience of reality and in helping others see into their mind.  We use these words but reality is reality.

Adrian is a tireless Bodhisattva who spends his life making previously untranslated works available to us in the English speaking world.  His work can be found on the International Ch’an Buddhism Institute (ICB) page, and also on the Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study (UK) page,  He is Shi Da Dao on Facebook.

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Comment on my Red Pine Posts.

Red Pines translations and commentaries are very detailed and extremely scholarly.  My purpose in these posts is simply to offer gratitude and hopefully lead a few people to investigate these books for themselves.  They have been very helpful for me, not that I claim to completely understand emptiness, non-self or self realization.  But I do get glimpses, brief moments when things seem clear to me.  I only hope that others will turn to these books and have moments when you experience reality, the absolute as I have.

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Red Pine’s translations – Part One

Red Pine (Bill Porter) has made a great contribution to the English speaking world in the form of translations of several very important sutras basic to Chan Buddhism.  They are the Heart Sutra, The Diamond Sutra, The Platform sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra. I believe that I read in one of his introductions that the Heart Sutra teaches Emptiness;  The Diamond Sutra teaches non-attachment; and the Lankavatara teaches self-realization. But really all these sutras teach the same thing with different words.  They teach it from a different view with different concepts.  They are different fingers pointing to the same moon.  The biggest problem that I have with Porter’s work is that he is so dedicated and scholarly that he presents more facts than I can handle.  I’m not complaining.  I keep going back and reading sections and contemplating and meditating.  My experience is deepening and I do have these wonderful Kenshō experiences.

In the Introduction to the Heart Sutra Porter says:

“Avalokiteshvara introduces us to emptiness, the common denominator of the mundane, the metaphysical, and the transcendent.”

Pine, Red (2005-08-10). The Heart Sutra (p. 6). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.

How many people can understand this statement?  One could meditate on it for a lifetime like a Huatou.  When we truly understand emptiness we no longer can be attached to anything.  How can you be attached to dharmas that are constantly changing, flowing and passing away.

Porter tells us in his commentary that emptiness is not nothingness but is everything all at once.  This not something to be understood logically.  It is an attempt to understand a kenshō experience.  The wonderful experience of enlightenment occurs when we drop our thinking and just become aware of our true nature that is shared with all other dharmas.

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Why does it take so long?

I’m not sure why it takes so long for some of us to realize there is nothing to attain.  We already have Buddha-nature within us.  We already have the mind-essence and we can experience it if we just stop grasping for what we think we need.  I keep seeking.  I keep reading and looking for wisdom in other peoples writings.  I’ve reached a point now that when I read a little something inside of me says why are you reading this?  I already know everything that I need to know.  The Dharmakaya Buddha, the Nirmanakaya Buddha, the Sambhogakaya Buddha are already within me.  Then I experience reality, something that cannot be put into words.  It’s then that I realize that knowing there is nothing to attain is the attainment.  Loving Kindness to ALL.

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Three Dharma Seals

The three Dharma Seals are Impermanence, Non-self, and Nirvana according to some. Others replace Non-self with Suffering. According to the teachings anything that does not have these three seals is not a true teaching. All of us are familiar with the impermanence of plants and sentient beings but many people think of it in a negative way. They only think of things passing away and no longer being available. Because of impermanence a seed is able to become a beautiful flower or tree. A young girl is able to become a scholar or a nun who understands skillful means. She may write things and give Dharma talks that help people overcome vexations and become liberated from suffering. I think what is most important for us who are practicing Buddhism is just to accept the reality that in this material world things arise and pass away. This includes our physical bodies. If we learn to contemplate this truth we can be OK with it. We do not need to suffer. We can learn to appreciate life in each moment. We can be grateful that we have found the teachings and understand that suffering is caused by greed, hatred and ignorance. Through our practice we can transform our minds and cultivate wisdom and compassion. We can understand impermanence without labeling it good or bad.

The second Dharma seal is non-self.  All things in this world of phenomena lack an independent self.  All things exist because of other things.  As many teachers say: “This is because that is.  This ceases to be because that ceases to be.”  Theistic religions teach the existence of an eternal soul that continues forever.  Buddhism denies the existence of a soul.  The soul is believed to be a concept of the mind.  Ego which craves eternal existence clings to this concept.  But ego is part of the five skandhas and has no permanent existence.  It is an illusion.

Nirvana is the third Dharma seal.  It means the extinction of concepts.  It also means the extinction of all suffering.  Nirvana is a state of perfect tranquility.  The Platform Sutra tells us that our ordinary mind becomes attached to external things and this causes us to become confused internally.  If we are able to let go of our attachments we are able to experience our true mind, our Buddha-nature.  We can be free from suffering and experience peacefulness and tranquility in each momnet.

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New Translation of the Heart Sutra.

I like to read different translations of Mahayana Sutras as the different translations speak to us a little differently.  Sometimes in reading one translation I will understand things that were elusive to me before.  Here is a new translation of the Heart Sutra by Thich Nhat Hanh published on the Plum Village site.  Hope it is helpful to you.

The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

while practicing deeply with
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,
suddenly discovered that
all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,
and with this realisation
he overcame all Ill-being.

“Listen Sariputra,
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra,
all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness;
their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death,
no Being no Non-being,
no Defilement no Purity,
no Increasing no Decreasing.

“That is why in Emptiness,
Body, Feelings, Perceptions,
Mental Formations and Consciousness
are not separate self entities.

The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena
which are the six Sense Organs,
the six Sense Objects,
and the six Consciousnesses
are also not separate self entities.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising
and their Extinction
are also not separate self entities.
Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,
the End of Ill-being, the Path,
insight and attainment,
are also not separate self entities.

Whoever can see this
no longer needs anything to attain.

Bodhisattvas who practice
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there
are no more obstacles in their mind,
they can overcome all fear,
destroy all wrong perceptions
and realize Perfect Nirvana.

“All Buddhas in the past, present and future
by practicing
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
are all capable of attaining
Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.

“Therefore Sariputra,
it should be known that
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the power
to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim
a mantra to praise
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”

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